Archive | December 2013

Maryland the great deception!

Here I am in Maryland – the home of the chocolate chip cookie as far as I know. So why can’t I find any of those cheeky  crunchy morsels with their buttery taste and hidden stash of chocolate chips, just peeking out through the surface? Reason is dear Brit friends – they just don’t exist. The natives here have no idea what I am talking about (so often the case I fear!).  Next thing they’ll be telling me you can’t buy ‘Penguins’ at the south Pole, or Nice biscuits in the south of France, or drink a manhattan in Manhattan, or buy a Mars bar…OK this is getting ridiculous. My cookie trail has however come to a dead end.

Maryland-chocolate_1794506cMaryland cookie

Seems like we were all lead astray and the  was the invention of Burton’s biscuits – a family bakery based in Leek, Staffordshire. The proprieter one George Burton (born 1825) was responsible for  establishing the company which continued to flourish until by 1900s its products graced the doily clad plates of many fine houses.

Since then of course there have been mergers and more mergers and now ‘Burton’s biscuit company’ bears little relation to the baked-by-hand original. I eagerly searched their web site for an answer to the ‘Why Maryland?’ – but instead found this slightly saddening statement.

‘Since November 2013, the company has been owned by Ontario Teachers’ Pension Plan, a leading investor and Canadian pension fund. The successful sale is testament to the strong financial performance of Burton’s in recent years, which has achieved annual sales of over £330 million in 2012 and continues to grow its market share quarter after quarter.

With our portfolio of iconic brands, Burton’s is a leading premium biscuit manufacturer and will continue making ‘Everyday More of a Treat’ for years to come.’

See the following link if you would like to know any more about the corporate cookie. In the meantime, if you really fancy making a delicious chocolate chip cookie of you very own – just look here

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Toll House Plus!

Wow – I am actually adding this material while sitting in the bar of an Amtrak train rushing and hooting its way through the Carolinas! (Bar is the only wifi hotspot I have to add for decency’s sake)

Yesterday I left Savannah and decided to make some more Toll House cookies with what I had left in the cupboard (or is that a closet?). I had 1 cup semi-sweet choc chips/ morsels, 1 cup white choc chips/ morsels, and 1/2 cup butterscotch chips/ morsels

So here is the result – my hosts seemed to enjoy them well enough!

what a great  colour mix!

what a great colour mix!

tricolour tower

Stacking ’em high!

so sweet and so tempting

so sweet and so tempting

That’s it ! Check for more Southern treats here.

 

Tassie Temptation

What rhymes with a famous TV dog and begins with a ‘T’ ? It is of course a Tassie! Still none the wiser? Read on..

Tassies are small mouthfuls of deliciousness eaten in the Southern States around Christmas – rather in the way we eat mince pies. Nobody round here seems to know where the word comes from – but research indicates that it is connected to the word ‘tasse’ (meaning cup) in French and even before that to ‘tassah’ in Arabic which means small bowl. A demitasse in French is one of those very small cups of strong black coffee served after dinner – in Arabic countries, coffee is served in such small cups to make guests feel welcomed. French influence in Louisiana presumably brought the word here and so it has stayed.

tassie pilePecan tassies are the most common here in Lousiana and Georgia – that nut just gets everywhere! The French settlers wanted to cook using almonds as they had before, but almonds are scarce and so the pecan took its place and is used in everything from pies to pralines.

What makes the tassie so delightful is its size (just a mouthful) and the lightness of the pastry cup itself which is made with cream cheese, flour and butter but no added sugar! (Can you believe that?) I cooked them in a mini-muffin tin which is the perfect shape and size – just big enough to pop into your mouth !

Butterscotch Tassies

pastry

1/3 cup/3oz /75g butter softened

3oz./90g cream cheese

1 cup/50z/145g plain flour

filling

1/3 cup/30z/75g butterscotch flavour pieces

1/2 cup/40z/110g semi-sweet chocolate chips

1/4 cup/20z/55g butter

2 eggs lightly beaten

1 tabesp. sugar

drizzle for topping

1/4 cup/20x/55g butterscotch melted with 2 teasp. butter until a smooth liquid is formed.

Method

For the pastry – blend the cream cheese and butter together in a bowl until they are well-mixed. Slowly beat in the flour until it is all absorbed – then bring the mixture together with your hands. Roll into a ball – cover with clingfilm and put in a cool place to chill for 30 minutes.

Preheat oven to 325f./165c/gas mk.3 Divide pastry into 24 portions and roll into balls. Place each ball in a mini muffin tin. Press the balls onto the bottom of the tin with your thumb and then bring up the dough so that it reaches the top of the tin.

   tassie in tin

For the filling, put the butterscotch pieces, chocolate chips and butter into a small pan – cook gently over a low heat until everything is melted – then remove from heat. Stir in beaten eggs and sugar and work well together until you get a glossy consistency.  Spoon the filling into the pastry pockets – you can fill to the top but don’t overfill.

choc chip and butterscotch                      Bake for 25 minutes or until pastry is golden and he filling is puffed. Cool in the cups for five or more minutes. Then remove tassies and place on a wire tray. (They should come out of the cups easily)

                       When the tassies are really cool – drizzle over the butterscotch sauce. If preferred you can omit the drizzle and simply grate some quality chocolate over the top.

                        Store in an airtight tine with layers of parchment between the tassies. They would keep for up to three days if people wouldn’t stop eating them! They are particularly wonderful when they are still warm. More Southern delights? Click here!

tassie 1 tassie 2 tassie 3

Sugar cookies

The  very title of this cookie is unnerving – maybe ‘cinnamon sugar’ or ‘spice and sugar’ or even ‘ sugar-topped’ would sound better to the British ear. However this cookie is what it says – totally unashamedly a cookie made from and flavoured with SUGAR! No nonsense about health warnings, calorie counting or other ominous threats to our sanity. Just get on with it and enjoy.

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First mistake I made with this cookie was to think it would turn a golden brown. In fact, like shortbread, it is cooked although still retaining a pallor worthy of a Jane Austen heroine. The recipe uses a mix of butter and ‘shortening’ – the former provides a buttery taste while the shortening adds a light crumbly texture. In the UK, the nearest equivalent to shortening is Cookeen and not lard. Lard is made from animal fat and has a taste which would be inappropriate in a sugary delicacy!

Ingredients

1/2 cup/4oz/115gm softened butter

1/2 cup/40z/115gm shortening

2 cups/14oz/395gm sugar ( I prefer half white and half light brown)

1 tsp baking powder

1 tsp cream of tartar

1/2 tsp salt

3 egg yolks ( beaten together)

1/2 tsp vanilla

1.3/4 cups/8oz/180gm all purpose (plain) flour.

Method

Preheat oven to 300F/150c/gas 2. Beat the butter and shortening together until really soft and blended. Add sugar, baking powder, cream of tartar and salt. Beat until well combined, scraping down the sides of the bowl where necessary. Beat in the egg yolks and the vanilla essence – by now you will have a soft, slightly yellow gloop. Add the flour gradually and beat in thoroughly. Use a spatula or wooden spoon at the end to make sure all the flour is blended.

Shape the dough into 1″ balls – use a little extra flour if this is difficult. Otherwise chill the dough until it is easier to handle. Place the dough balls 2″ apart on a baking sheet lined with non-stick paper.

Bake for 12-14 mins – or until edges are firm but not brown. Cool on cookie sheet for two minutes and then transfer to a wire rack to cool. (makes at least 36 cookies ) For more Southern delights, just click here

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Toll House Cookies – choc chip at its best

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I wondered where this strange name for a chocolate chip cookie came from. Maybe it was used as payment for crossing a bridge somewhere or given as payment for some little job undertaken? Research shows that fanciful ideas don’t always pay off – the cookie originated  in 1930 in the Toll House Inn in Whitman, Massachusetts a very popular restaurant that featured home cooking. The name of the  owner was Ruth Graves Wakefield. in the 1930s. Her cookbook, Toll House Tried and True Recipes, was published in 1936  and it included the recipe “Toll House Chocolate Crunch Cookie”, which rapidly became a favorite to be baked in American homes.

Originally the cookies were made by using bits of chocolate hacked off a larger block – in fact you can still do this if you prefer. Sometimes the price of chocolate chips seems extortionate compared with the amount of chocolate you are actually getting for your money. In US chocolate chips are much cheaper than UK – and there is much more competition from grocery stores to produce their own, If I am feeling very generous I sometimes mix a little chopped Belgian chocolate to the mix just to make them a bit more luxurious. Seems like Nestle cornered the choc chip market – and they even print a recipe for Toll House cookies on the back or some packets and produce ‘Toll House Cocoa’ – enough is enough!

Here is the recipe – very simple and like most American recipes, produces huge quantities. However it would be silly to split the quantities or even think about freezing half as there are teenage boys around this house!!

INGREDIENTS:
2 1/4 cups/24oz/320g  all-purpose flour
1 teaspoon baking soda
1 teaspoon salt
1 cup butter or margarine, softened
3/4 cup/50z/150g granulated sugar
3/4 cup/50z/150g packed brown sugar
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
2 large egg
2 cups/7oz/190g semi-sweet chocolate chips (plus extra chunks of Belgian milk chocolate if desired – you could also add a handful of chopped nuts)

Method
1. Preheat oven to 375 degrees F/190c/gas 5.
2. Combine flour, baking soda and salt in small bowl. Beat butter, granulated sugar,
brown sugar and vanilla extract in large mixer bowl until creamy. Add eggs one at a
time, beating well after each addition. Gradually beat in flour mixture. Stir in chocolate chips and pieces.
Drop by rounded tablespoon onto  baking sheets lined with non-stick paper.
3. Bake for 9 to 11 minutes or until golden brown. Cool on baking sheets for 2 minutes;
remove to wire racks to cool completely.

Do not bake too long – they should be soft and not crisp and brittle. Strangely enough Americans do seem to dunk these in a glass of  ice cold milk. It is worth using real vanilla in place of an inferior essence – even the smell as you are stirring adds a sensuality to the baking experience. Even more Southern treats can be found here

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